We wrote for Miss Price. We made voices
that weren't ours for three full pages:
the old, the immigrants, Negroes, Jews.
We used the lost l of Japanese.
We jabbered in broken Spanish.
One of us wrote a comical pope.
We read our conversations aloud,
and all of us listened to the words
of communists, Italians, and bums.
Everyone in English kept smiling:
the Polish, the Catholics, the sons
and the daughters of the unemployed.
In Berlin, where my cousins were
divided, the new wall was guarded
by men who said nothing in our homework.
I didn't write German. I knew how
it sounded, all coughs and commands,
the clearing in my grandfathers' throats.
When I read the words of Tyrone
and Sapphire, Miss Price gave me an A
for drawl and dialect and humor.
Those city folk had so much to say,
I improvised after class. I could talk
and talk like someone I'd never met.
School was as easy as not listening.
I was a good student. I repeated
what I didn't know until I'd learned it.